Driverless cars may end up driving more like humans than robots if Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) is successful with a multi-million pound autonomous vehicle research project.
The carmaker will deploy a fleet of vehicles under the Land Rover and Jaguar brands to employees of the London Borough of Greenwich to assess how different people react to driving conditions on a daily basis.
JLR will analyse data from sensors on the cars to see how the drivers coped with situations such as heavy traffic, busy junctions, road works and bad weather, and how they handle stress, analyse complex conditions and make decisions.
Dr Wolfgang Epple, director of research and technology at JLR, explained that understanding how people drive is an important part of developing driverless cars.
“Understanding how drivers react to a range of very dynamic and random situations is essential if we want drivers to embrace autonomous cars in the future,” he said.
Some may question why JLR wants its driverless cars to behave like humans, when human error is the largest contributor to road accidents.
But the company is clearly trying to make its autonomous car systems drive in a smooth and controlled way rather than in a jerky, start-stop way characterised by some driverless systems.
The initiative is part of a three-year £5.5m project led by Bosch called Move-UK. The driving data will be used by insurance companies to develop policies, which has raised difficult questions about who or what is liable in the event of an accident.
Accelerating driverless car development
Move-UK is one of eight projects awarded government funding from a £20m research and development grant to pave the way for driverless cars as an everyday feature on UK roads.
The eight projects are the first to be funded from the government’s £100m Intelligent Mobility Fund set up to develop driverless vehicles such as autonomous shuttles designed to carry visually impaired passengers.
The funding is likely to speed up the testing of driverless cars on public streets in Bristol, Coventry and Milton Keynes. Autonomous vehicles are also being tested at Heathrow Airport to shuttle passengers on designated tracks.
Transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin explained that the testing and funding is a “landmark moment” for autonomous vehicles in the UK.
“These projects will help profoundly change the way we travel within years, transforming our roads by making travel a simpler experience for drivers, reducing accidents and helping traffic flow more smoothly,” he said.
“They will also bring great benefits to our society and the wider economy by opening up new routes for global investment.”
Highway to Solihull
The government has also allocated £5.5m to the UK Connected Intelligent Transport Environment project, under which JLR will invest in a 41-mile ‘corridor’ of roads between Coventry and Solihull to develop connected and autonomous car technologies.
The “living laboratory” will feature 100 cars with smart and autonomous features to test systems that enable cars to 'talk' to each other and improve journey times and reduce traffic jams.
An example is allowing cars to warn other vehicles of approaching emergency service vehicles, giving them time to get out of the way rather than hold up an ambulance from reaching its destination as quickly as possible.
JLR is a British carmaker with a rich automotive history, and is no stranger to cutting-edge technology having conducted research into using the cloud and connected cars to create a pothole avoidance system.
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